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6 Hard Truths About Volunteering Abroad That No One Will Tell You

6 Hard Truths About Volunteering Abroad That No One Will Tell You

When you want to travel and do some charity work at the same time, volunteering abroad seems to be the best option. It’s also a great option for students who want to travel but are short on money. The prospect of traveling cheap and helping people is very seductive, so before you know it, you may find yourself teaching English in South America or helping medical staff in an AIDS clinic in Africa. On paper it’s all nice, but the harsh reality might be way too much for you. When I traveled to Romania to help children in remote villages in the Carpathian mountains, I wasn’t ready for what I found. Here are the hard truths no one is telling you about volunteering abroad.

1. Fundraising is an important part of volunteering abroad

When you sign up to volunteer abroad, you need to know these organizations need both your work and money. This is why fundraising is mandatory in most cases. Before you leave, the organization may ask you to raise some funds to validate your spot among the volunteers. Some organizations will ask you to fundraise while volunteering.

There are some organizations which can cover the cost of your accommodations because they get help from locals who volunteer to shelter people who come to help them.

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However, you need to make sure the money you are raising is going to the right places, so ask the organization how they will use the money you send. The right answers are for providing food, equipment, and supplies for volunteers like you and the locals. Another thing you’ll want to research before sending the money is if the actions taken by the organization are ethical and really help the local communities. Unfortunately, there are places where volunteers do more harm than good.

2. Find the right volunteer program for you

I am not the person to build houses — my skills in crafting are limited to understanding the difference between a nail and a hammer. However, I do have excellent communication skills and I know how to attract kids and make them listen to me. So, I went on and worked with kids during my volunteering abroad experience.

Picking the right volunteer program for you is essential because not all programs are a good fit for your abilities. Before you enrol in a program, make sure you are a good candidate. You may want to work as a nurse, but if you become sick from seeing blood, this is not the right position for you.

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3. Your volunteer work is not an employment guarantee

After working as a volunteer in an organization, there is no guarantee someone will actually hire you or will help you extend your visa. Yes, these things happen, but they happen to a small number of volunteers, so don’t rely on this. All you can do is dedicate yourself to your work and connect with as many organizations, businesses, and people as you can.

4. It will be bad

Now comes the really hard part of this article: volunteering abroad is not all smiles and cocktails — it will have a bad side! When you arrive at your site, you may be greeted by the poorest, illest-looking person you’ve ever seen in your life. Disease and a lack of the basic features of a home, such as tap water and medicines, are going to shock you. Then you will have to face the realities of surviving a couple of months sleeping in tiny huts or dorms, eating the same food every day. Volunteering is going to show you just how weak you are, but also how strong you are. On your first day, you won’t even be able to look at the dirty, emaciated people around you; on your last day, you will look straight into their eyes.

5. The problems will be worse than you’ve imagined

Many volunteers start their adventure abroad thinking they will go there and eradicate any trace of disease, poverty, and illiteracy in the area. The reality is more cruel than this sweet dream: you won’t make a hugely significant difference! Your volunteering abroad time is only going to help a couple of poor kids learn how to say “thank you” in English. Or perhaps you will help a mother with AIDS deliver a healthy baby. You won’t change the world nor the local community, but the small changes still mean something.

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6. Volunteering abroad will make you feel useless

Because you will discover a new world, where nothing is like you’ve seen in pictures or on TV, volunteering abroad will make you feel useless. Most of the time, you will be “just a volunteer” who will be sent to bring a bucket of water or left out of important matters, because you will leave in couple of weeks. This will make your feelings of uselessness even worse, but you need to be firm and positive. Focus on what you can do and learn to love it! If you work with people, try to ignore their coolness and do your job well. They will learn to love you!

Empowering, fulfilling, and amazing – this is real-life volunteering!

Volunteering abroad can be an empowering, fulfilling, and amazing experience, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Make sure you stay realistic about your new adventure and do as much research as you can so you won’t be taken by surprise when you land in a remote area.

When you are faced with the hard truth of volunteering, you will discover a side of your personality you never knew you had. You will learn how strong you are, even if you end up crying every day for the first two weeks.

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Volunteering abroad, regardless where and how you do it, is going to leave a strong mark on you. Some day, despite the hard stuff, you might even want to do it all over again.

Featured photo credit: Visions Service Adventures/Flickr via flickr.com

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Last Updated on February 24, 2021

How to Find Workout Motivation When You Hate Exercise

How to Find Workout Motivation When You Hate Exercise

It’s easy to fall into a mindset where you hate exercise. It does, indeed, demand a lot from you. You have to use special clothes, develop a routine and exercise habit, get out of the comfort of your own home, and wear yourself out to the point where you just want to collapse into bed. Fortunately, while there are a lot of reasons to dislike exercise, there are even more reasons to love it.

If you want to stop hating exercises and making excuses to avoid it, here’s how to tackle each one of those exercise excuses, get into action, and give your body the attention it craves.

1. I Have to Exercise 30 Minutes Each Day to Get Results

Most of us have a number that we think we should hit in order to exercise “enough.” For some people, this is the daily recommended minimum of 30 minutes. For others, it’s 45 minutes of weight-training plus another 45 minutes of cardio.

I’m not going to put up a fight with your number here. What I am going to do is challenge your idea of starting with that number right away. You see, even though 30 minutes a day might not seem like a lot, 30 minutes a day for the next 5 years is actually too much for your habitual brain to process.

So yes, everyone can do 30 minutes of daily exercise for one week. But how many people can do that for the next 5 years?

Starting small has the advantage of bypassing your brain’s fight-or-flight response, the mechanism that make you sabotage yourself when you are trying to do something that seems “big” for too long and makes you hate exercise.

This way, instead of mindlessly starting with an exercise program, you focus on building the habit first, and then once you are exercising a little bit every day, you are ready to expand how much exercise you do.

2. I Don’t Want to Have to Force Myself to Do It

If you have to force yourself to do it, then there is a 90% chance that you are doing it wrong, and you will never stick to exercise.

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Some people are motivated by challenges and others pushing them, while others hate it.

If you are one of the people who hate it, stop trying to change yourself, and of course, stop treating yourself as if you were one of those people who are motivated by challenges and being pushed. The more you use this approach on yourself, the more you’ll hate exercise and avoid it in the long term.

Instead, change the way you approach exercise. Stop falling into what I call the “Happiness Paradox Trap.” Instead of starting with what you think you “should do,” start with what feels good.

Maybe weight lifting and running aren’t your thing, but have you tried Zumba or Pilates classes? Maybe you hate the feel of a gym, so try getting into cycling instead. Don’t feel that there’s one right way to go about it, and do your best to make it your own.

3. I’m Not Motivated Enough

We think that motivation is the answer to sticking to exercise. If only we wanted it enough, then we would make it happen.

However, motivation is always there. If you feel you wish you exercised more, then you are motivated to exercise. If you are not doing it, it’s not because you are not motivated. It’s because something stops you.

It might be the activated fight-or-flight response we talked about in #1. For example, when you feel that you have too much to do, the fight-or-flight response kicks in, and you do nothing.

People who have already made exercise a daily ritual don’t depend on boosting their motivation to get off the couch and exercise. They just do it, naturally, without debating it with themselves, desperately trying to get themselves into action.

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Maybe you think you need to devote 1 hour and you don’t know how to do that. Or, maybe you think you need to suffer to get results. Whatever the real reason is, find it. Only then will you be able to figure out a way to remove the obstacle that is on your way.

4. I Don’t Need Exercise to Lose Weight

Many people only care about their weight. Yet, our bodies are naturally wired to feel good when we move. Here is a quick list of the benefits of exercise:

  • Decreases the risk of various diseases and bad health conditions, like high cholesterol, diabetes, stroke, certain types of cancer, arthritis, and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Increases longevity. Many research studies support the fact that exercise can reverse some signs of aging and reduce chances of death by any cause.[1]
  • Improves mood. Exercise does not just help depressed people; it helps everyone, even those who hate exercise. A quick workout or walk stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed.
  • Increases your energy levels. Regular physical activity boosts your endurance and helps your heart and lungs work more efficiently. And yes, that means more energy available for you.
  • Improves sleep. Regular physical activity can help you sleep better and fall asleep more easily, as long as you don’t exercise a couple of hours prior to bedtime.
  • Improves sex life. Erectile dysfunction? Lack of libido? Just lack of energy? Exercise may help with all of that.
  • Helps you better control your weight. Exercise helps you burn calories, plus you build muscle that generally burns more calories than fat. Exercise is a great add-on to a diet or weight maintenance plan.
  • Gets you better lab results, even if you are overweight. Did you know that an obese person who is fit, i.e., exercises regularly, will show better lab results than a thin person who never exercises?

5. Exercise Needs All of My Attention

Maybe you are currently busy with your work life, or you are planning a trip next week. Maybe your child just got sick and needs your constant attention. Shouldn’t you just wait until you can give exercise 100% of your attention?

This rationale once again sounds plausible, but just like the “I don’t have time” excuse, is it really true? Is not starting because you are not “ready” the best thing for you right now? Is neglecting yourself and your body for a few more weeks/months/years a good strategy?

Finally, how many months or years will you spend before you get all your ducks in a row?

6. I Find Exercise Boring

Most advice in response to this excuse tells you to find something that you actually like. Yet, I know that for most people, exercise itself is rarely the thing that makes you hate exercise. Having to do it for “too long” is the issue.

That’s why I said that if 30 minutes are boring, try 5 or 10.

Now, if this idea of starting small stresses you out, let me remind you the wisdom of #1–the fact that you may want to be exercising one hour a day doesn’t mean you have to start from one hour right away. You can start small, and as you feel more and more comfortable, build your way up.

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Getting into a fitness program or hiring a personal trainer for a couple of weeks can also help you find a routine that interests you.

7. I Have Negative Past Experiences

I understand that you came last at the sprint race when you were at school. I understand that you may feel embarrassed when you attend fitness classes. Luckily, your past does not need to define your future.

A client of mine wanted to start jogging. She started by walking around the neighborhood. Yet, she found out she felt really uncomfortable feeling that her neighbors were watching her.

She accepted that, and worked her way around it. Instead of walking around her own block, she walked around the block next to her own block, and the problem was solve. A few months later, she was already jogging 2 miles a couple of times a week.

8. I Hate the Hassle of Exercise

If you think you need to exercise for an hour, take a shower, and drive to the gym and back, then you have two hours gone, just like that. You might like moving your body, but you certainly don’t like having to spend all this time working out!

Luckily, exercise that gets you results doesn’t have to take all this time and scheduling brainpower.

To start, you could do something that takes less time and planning, like exercising at home. You may feel more comfortable if you get to work out within sight of your comfy sofa instead of driving 20 minutes to the nearest gym.

You can also try automating. For example, if you go to the gym after work, make sure your gym bag is ready from the day before, so you don’t have to deal with that during your busy morning.

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9. I Don’t Have Enough Time to Exercise

Even though we know people busier than us who actually exercise, we keep saying we are “too busy,” and we hate exercise for making us even busier.

Have you ever thought that being “busy” is actually a lie? If there are busier people than you who make it happen, then so could you. Yet, even though we acknowledge that, we still believe it’s true.

It’s time to admit that time is not the main issue. It’s probably the way your are prioritizing things, and you are afraid you’ll have to give up something else in favor of exercise. Whatever the real reason, you need to find it if you want to give your body a chance to thrive.

If you don’t know where to start when finding time to exercise, check out Lifehack’s free 4 Step Guide to Creating More Time Out of a Busy Schedule.

10. Exercise Will Take Time Away From Other Things

You might be worried that exercise will take too much of your time, or that you’ll need to give up another hobby or time with your family to do it.

If you don’t want to hate exercise, you must first stop making it the enemy. If it is the thing that will “stop you” from doing other things, you’ll likely never convince yourself that it’s worth it.

However, if exercise becomes the thing that will help you become healthier, be more active for your kids, and focus more at work, it then becomes a necessity that you’re willing to make room for in your life.

The Bottom Line

It can often feel natural to hate exercise. Life is already demanding a lot from us, and exercise is just one more thing we have to squeeze in. However, once you realize all of the benefits you can receive from it, it will feel less like a chore and more like the part of your day you look most forward to.

More on Getting Into the Exercise Habit

Featured photo credit: Minna Hamalainen via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Maturitas: Exercise and longevity

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